Obituary: Joel Elliott Schaffer

Obituary: Joel Elliott Schaffer

Joel Elliott Schaffer, 74, of Atlanta, Ga., passed away on Feb. 1.

Joel Elliott Schaffer, 74, of Atlanta, Ga., passed away on Feb. 1. Funeral services were held Sunday, Feb. 6, at 1:30 p.m., at Memory Hill Cemetery, 2390 Hartford Highway, Dothan, AL 36305, with Cantor Neil Schwartz officiating. Interment will follow, Holman Funeral Home of Ozark directing. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to their charity of choice.

Joel was born Jan. 7, 1948, in Ozark, Ala., the eldest son of Sylvia and Nathan Schaffer. Joel grew up listening to Clear Channel radio stations from St. Louis, Atlanta and other faraway places, which sparked a wanderlust. Late-night Big Band music became the soundtrack of Joel’s life.

In high school, Joel, a member of the only Jewish family in Ozark, was selected to be a page for the Alabama delegation in the United States House of Representatives in Washington. This experience sparked a lifelong interest in politics and political discussion. His other lifelong loves included Crimson Tide football, through which he made many friends, like the great All-American Fred Sington, who he chatted up at Michael’s Steakhouse in Birmingham on game day. A picture of Paul “Bear” Bryant, personally autographed to Joel, proudly hung on the wall of Joel’s dining room.

Joel graduated from Dale County High and attended Georgia State University. After a short stint as a night clerk for pro wrestler Paul Jones’ White House Hotel in Atlanta, and later for Fulton County voter registration, Joel found his home in the Fulton County court system.

Joel began as a clerk in the back room of the criminal division, and quickly moved up — to the front desk, then to the position of courtroom deputy clerk and calendar clerk, to, ultimately, a Senior Judicial Case Manager for a who’s who of Fulton County judges, including the Honorable Woodrow Tucker, former state senator and future chief judge of the Georgia Court of Appeals, the Honorable Ed Johnson, the Honorable Mel Westmoreland and former attorney for the City of Atlanta and State Court Judge, the Honorable Susan Forsling. Joel was also instrumental in the formation of the Fulton County DUI Court. Following his retirement, Joel relaxed and began an extended and enthusiastic exploration of his many and varied interests.

Joel enjoyed annual trips to Major League Baseball’s Spring Training and enjoyed visiting ballparks throughout the United States. Perhaps his fondest memories were of his trips to Europe with his godson, Scott Miller. While there, he visited Chartwell, the home of his idol, Winston Churchill, and “stormed” the Beaches of Normandy.

Joel enjoyed his Dunhill cigars, Braves baseball games with Scott and Billy Rudolph, Katz’s pastrami and his mother’s cheesecake. He was beloved by animals, and his personal pet loves were the canine trio of Augie Doggie, Bernard and Jolene. Joel loved recounting his tales of meeting famous folks, including Vin Scully, a drunk Mel Allen, Otis Nixon, Ted Turner (in the courthouse bathroom) and Ringo Starr (also in the courthouse bathroom). Joel also loved long talks with Lane Miller, history books, sitting on the set of the Tonight Show, Pink’s hotdogs, Turner’s in Ozark, the Ice House, oysters and Dreamland.

Joel is survived by his brother, Steven Schaffer, and sister, Beth Schaffer, of Montgomery, Ala. He is also survived by his adoptive family, the Millers: David, Nancy, Lane (with Danielle Moore) and Scott (with Erin Miller), all of whom loved him for “just being Joel.” We will all miss his kind, gentle, generous and selfless spirit so very much.

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